A program that focuses on the scientific study of plant diseases and plant health, and the development of disease control mechanisms. Includes instruction in plant anatomy and physiology, pathogenesis, molecular plant virology, molecular genetics, bacterial epidemiology, causal agent identification, host/agent interactions, disease resistance and response mechanisms, developing plant disease treatments, disease prevention, and disease physiology and control.

Careers in phytopathology focus on understanding diseases that affect plants.

Pathogens are a broad category of organisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites that can be harmful to plant life. Plant pathologists, or phytopathologists, are responsible for the defense and maintenance of plants facing disease. They also acknowledge the impact of environmental factors on plant health, and study how pollutants or changes in the soil, air, or water can have adverse effects on plant life.

Phytopathologists employ different strategies when it comes to dealing with plant diseases. Sometimes they will alter the plant itself to make it more resistant to disease, change factors within the plant's environment, or apply an external agent that kills or neutralizes the harmful pathogen. This work is particularly important to agriculture and conservation efforts, since plant disease is one of the biggest threats to food supply and biodiversity.

Work in plant pathology may include...

  • Monitoring infected plants
  • Using special equipment and techniques to collect and record data
  • Developing new treatments for plants
  • Evaluating harmful environmental elements
  • Working with various experts to find solutionsPlant pathologists can work in various environments ranging from research labs and nurseries to industrial chemical development settings. Sometimes they do field work in a very literal sense, investigating diseased crops and infested growth areas in the outdoors. Botanical gardens and nurseries that house rare plants often keep a plant pathologist on board to serve as a sort of doctor. They are often hired by universities and government agencies; seed companies also employ phytopathologists to make their product hardier.

Becoming a plant pathologist is an involved process that starts with a comprehensive scientific education. Students can build a strong knowledge base with coursework in biology, botany, ecology or genetics; it helps to have some additional background in agricultural studies or soil science, and courses in forestry, microbiology, or environmental policy can provide interesting context. After obtaining a Bachelor's degree, most aspiring plant pathologists pursue graduate study, since many jobs prefer to hire candidates with advanced degrees due to the technical nature of the work. Master's and Doctoral programs in plant pathology permit students to work with plants, viruses, and specialized equipment, and they can be a rewarding learning environment for those passionate about plants.

So many factors in today's world can impact the health of a plant, and it's up to phytopathologists to figure out what they are and how to mitigate their effects. Their vital work helps to ensure a future filled with thriving plant life; if that sounds like your kind of world, plant pathology might be a great career choice.

For more information, please follow the links below:

  • The American Phytopathological Society has been supporting breakthroughs in plant pathology for over a century.
  • Open Plant Pathology is an initiative that promotes open-source learning and information accessibility within the field of plant pathology.
  • The Plant Pathology Journal is an international journal devoted to the publication of research in plant pathology and related disciplines.
  • Forest Pathology is an educational resource for students and community members with an interest in the subject.